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jeremyb1
02-27-2004, 02:45 AM
It's one of baseball's truths: successful teams need strength up the middle.

That's defined as catcher, second base, shortstop and center field. How the White Sox fare in those positions will go a long way toward determining what kind of season they will have.

I've never heard a single argument in my entire life about why it is important to be strong up the middle other than it is conventional baseball wisdom. I've yet to hear an explanation of why an above average shortstop is better than an above average right fielder or why an above average catcher is better than an above average third basemen. I guess if the point is that a SS with a .900 OPS is more valuable than a RF with a .900 OPS due to position strength, it is true but if you ask me that's clearly not the manner in which this belief is most often applied. This is just complete idiocy and it kills me that baseball analysis hasn't progressed more at this point.

Only Jose Valentin, a shortstop with good power whose glove always has been suspect, is a proven commodity.

As a thread a month or two back discussing, Diamond Mind Baseball makes a compelling argument that Jose Valentin was the best shortstop in the major leagues last season. It really doesn't seem to rocket science to me that if player a fields nine out of 10 balls and makes an error on one of those plays he's still a better player than player b that fields 7 of the same ten balls and doesn't make any errors. Player a has still made 8 putouts to player b's 7. Its not that complicated really.

http://chicagosports.chicagotribune.com/sports/baseball/whitesox/cs-040226sox,1,5033907.story?coll=cs-home-headlines

doublem23
02-27-2004, 03:04 AM
The Tribune doesn't do many things well, but oversimplification is something the specialize in.

:shammy
I swear, the batboy gave me the wrong one.

Rex Hudler
02-27-2004, 03:23 AM
Strong defense up the middle is important because that is where the most action is. Your SS and 2B are involved in more plays than the other infielders and must cover the most ground.

Ditto for the CF. The less ground your CF can cover, the more work your corner outfielders must do. The CF is largely responsible for patrolling the gaps and taking away extra base hits.

Your catcher is the quarterback. He handles the pitching staff, communicates coverages in the infield and helps position outfielders, in additon with being charge to limit an opponents running game.

I think you will find that most Championship teams are pretty strong up the middle. Of course, strong pitching never hurts too!

jeremyb1
02-27-2004, 04:09 AM
Originally posted by Rex Hudler
Strong defense up the middle is important because that is where the most action is. Your SS and 2B are involved in more plays than the other infielders and must cover the most ground.

Ditto for the CF. The less ground your CF can cover, the more work your corner outfielders must do. The CF is largely responsible for patrolling the gaps and taking away extra base hits.

Your catcher is the quarterback. He handles the pitching staff, communicates coverages in the infield and helps position outfielders, in additon with being charge to limit an opponents running game.

I think you will find that most Championship teams are pretty strong up the middle. Of course, strong pitching never hurts too!

Well if it is solely defensively that strength up the middle is important that makes slightly more sense. I still have a problem with the frequent comment that team a will struggle because they are not strong up the middle defensively. That assumes first of all that you have to have a well balanced team to succeed. I think a team with the best rotation, pen, and offense in the league and poor defense will beat the team that has an average rotation, pen, offense, and defense nine out of ten times. Stating that a team has to be strong defensively to win ignores lots of key factors in my opinion and claiming that a team must be strong defensively at four specific positions to win seems even more absurd. I'd love to see how well the team with Brad Ausmus, Rey Ordonez, Pokey Reese, and Chris Singleton up the middle fails. They'd certainly be the strongest up the middle defensively in the league.

With the exception of perhaps offense or pitching, there is no one area in which a team must succeed to win. The Indians of the late 90s did not have strong pitching staffs but their offense carried them to the Series and a number of 90+ win seasons. The Dodgers had by far the worst offense in baseball last season but nearly made the playoffs on the strenght of their position. Here are two teams that struggled at offense and pitching and still performed quite well. It'd be quite hard to argue that defense is equally or more important to pitching or offense in my opinion. All you have to do is score significantly more runs than you allow and there is no one way to do that.

mike squires
02-27-2004, 05:04 AM
Our main positions have a lot of question marks and we certaily have a lot of projects...Harris, Roland and Olivo. These guys will hve to produce both defensivly and offnsivly if we want to do anything this year.

PaulDrake
02-27-2004, 08:26 AM
Originally posted by Rex Hudler
Strong defense up the middle is important because that is where the most action is. Your SS and 2B are involved in more plays than the other infielders and must cover the most ground.

Ditto for the CF. The less ground your CF can cover, the more work your corner outfielders must do. The CF is largely responsible for patrolling the gaps and taking away extra base hits.

Your catcher is the quarterback. He handles the pitching staff, communicates coverages in the infield and helps position outfielders, in additon with being charge to limit an opponents running game.

I think you will find that most Championship teams are pretty strong up the middle. Of course, strong pitching never hurts too! Exactly. Why does every bit of old wisdom have to be questioned?

poorme
02-27-2004, 08:44 AM
They are without doubt, the most important defensive positions.

DrCrawdad
02-27-2004, 08:45 AM
I've been fairly impressed with what I've seen of Harris in the past. IMO Harris will do well at 2nd this year.

MarqSox
02-27-2004, 08:49 AM
Originally posted by PaulDrake
Exactly. Why does every bit of old wisdom have to be questioned?
Because this generation grew up playing baseball video games and fantasy baseball which don't take into account intangibles like that. The average teenage baseball fan today thinks like Angelos of the Orioles who thinks you can just amass a bunch of good hitters and the team will win. It's not that simple.

P.S. I'm not knocking video games or fantasy baseball -- I play both. But it lends a different and sometimes misleading perspective to the game.

Gumshoe
02-27-2004, 08:59 AM
I'd like to point out what I did last year regarding this topic of "strong up the middle". Look at the 2003 Chicago Cubs!

If you are going to tell me that Alex Gonzalez, Paul Bako/Damian Miller, Mark Grudzielanek, and Kenny Lofton is a super solid up the middle combination then I would tell you that you are crazy. The whole thing is that they made some plays, the pitching was great, AND the division was weaker so it was there for the taking. Let's face it, Lofton is atrocious in CF. Aaron Rowand is at least 5 times better right now. Grudz and Gonzo are good. I don't see why the White Sox combination is that lacking, being that that Cubs complex almost went to the World Series.

That being said, there will be much more important issues than our "up the middle" concerns, namely, how we play together as a TEAM. Go Ozzie.

Gumshoe

fquaye149
02-27-2004, 09:19 AM
our defense up the middle is just fine...it's our hitting that's suspect.

as jeremy b pointed out jose is one of the better defensive shortstops in the game...he's far from a royce who will dog it on challenging balls.

harris has never been criticized for his defense...everything i've ever read about him says he has above average range and glove...

rowand is adequate in center field...and miguel's hitting is lackluster, not his defense...in fact he's got a cannon, and he's been known to call a pretty good game.


that leaves us with hitting, which i think is jeremy's point: why is it any more important for up the middle to be good hitters than it is for the other positions?

Frater Perdurabo
02-27-2004, 09:28 AM
Originally posted by Rex Hudler
Strong defense up the middle is important because that is where the most action is. Your SS and 2B are involved in more plays than the other infielders and must cover the most ground.

Ditto for the CF. The less ground your CF can cover, the more work your corner outfielders must do. The CF is largely responsible for patrolling the gaps and taking away extra base hits.

Your catcher is the quarterback. He handles the pitching staff, communicates coverages in the infield and helps position outfielders, in additon with being charge to limit an opponents running game.

I think you will find that most Championship teams are pretty strong up the middle. Of course, strong pitching never hurts too!

I would add that a good defense up the middle, which gets to more balls in the gaps, resulting in fewer extra base hits (turns triples into doubles, doubles into singles, some hits into outs), HELPS THE PITCHING STAFF IMMENSELY!

Getting an out instead of hit, or a single instead of a double, means that your pitcher doesn't have to throw as many pitches, which means that your starters go deeper into games and your bullpen is more rested. The less the bullpen is used, the better it will perform.

To our chagrin, the Twins have used their defense to win a few more AL Central titles than the Sox over the past few seasons.

Rex Hudler
02-27-2004, 10:11 AM
The Indians of the late 90s did not have strong pitching staffs but their offense carried them to the Series and a number of 90+ win seasons.

Don't forget to mention that with Alomar Jr., Vizquel, Alomar and Lofton, they were one of the best defensive teams up the middle in a long time. Alomar and Vizquel alone were worth the price of admission.

I would add that a good defense up the middle, which gets to more balls in the gaps, resulting in fewer extra base hits (turns triples into doubles, doubles into singles, some hits into outs), HELPS THE PITCHING STAFF IMMENSELY!

Frater, I am glad you mentioned that. As a former pitcher, I can tell you that there is a definite direct correlation between good defense and good pitching.

For those that have to prove everything with statistics, you will have a problem with this concept, but it even goes beyond an OF running a ball down in the gap turning a potential double into an out. A pitcher is better mentally when he knows he has guys that will make plays for him. He pitches more agressively and tries to nibble less. His confidence level is boosted tremendously and he doesn't have to try and strike every hitter out. I am not saying that a guy has to have a great defense behind him to be a good pitcher, but I am saying that same pitcher would be better with a great defense behind him than an average one.

itchy
02-27-2004, 10:19 AM
AL Champs Yankees -- terrible up the middle defensively last year.

Rex Hudler
02-27-2004, 10:30 AM
Originally posted by itchy
AL Champs Yankees -- terrible up the middle defensively last year.

No one said there can't be exceptions....... but I think you would find that most Championship teams are solid at the minimum up the middle.

CubKilla
02-27-2004, 11:04 AM
Originally posted by PaulDrake
Exactly. Why does every bit of old wisdom have to be questioned?

1. Because the Tribune said it.
2. Because we have three unproven youngsters (Olivo, Rowand, and Olivo) and an error-prone SS.

Being strong up the middle is a given if you're a clear thinking baseball person much more so than being strong on the L or R field side.

jeremyb1
02-27-2004, 01:00 PM
Originally posted by MarqSox
Because this generation grew up playing baseball video games and fantasy baseball which don't take into account intangibles like that. The average teenage baseball fan today thinks like Angelos of the Orioles who thinks you can just amass a bunch of good hitters and the team will win. It's not that simple.

P.S. I'm not knocking video games or fantasy baseball -- I play both. But it lends a different and sometimes misleading perspective to the game.

Or maybe I just grew up learning to question facts instead of accept something just because someone else said it was true. We still don't have one reason in this thread why you have to have strong defense up the middle to win. I made a rather long post explaining why a well balanced team is not a necessity to win and no one has argued against that. I conceeded posts ago that obviously 1) defense has an effect on a team's ability to win 2) defense is more important at c, ss, 2b, and cf than other positions. However, why must you be strong at 4 defensive positions to be a winning team? Why is it more important than good hitting, good pitching, a strong bullpen, etc? Why is it a necessary condition for winning as opposed to a helpful factor?

Dadawg_77
02-27-2004, 01:04 PM
Originally posted by Rex Hudler
Strong defense up the middle is important because that is where the most action is. Your SS and 2B are involved in more plays than the other infielders and must cover the most ground.

Ditto for the CF. The less ground your CF can cover, the more work your corner outfielders must do. The CF is largely responsible for patrolling the gaps and taking away extra base hits.

Your catcher is the quarterback. He handles the pitching staff, communicates coverages in the infield and helps position outfielders, in additon with being charge to limit an opponents running game.

I think you will find that most Championship teams are pretty strong up the middle. Of course, strong pitching never hurts too!

The Yankees aren't stong up the middle.

Rex Hudler
02-27-2004, 01:50 PM
Originally posted by Dadawg_77
The Yankees aren't stong up the middle.

They also haven't won the WS the past three years.

Rex Hudler
02-27-2004, 01:56 PM
Originally posted by jeremyb1
Or maybe I just grew up learning to question facts instead of accept something just because someone else said it was true. We still don't have one reason in this thread why you have to have strong defense up the middle to win. I made a rather long post explaining why a well balanced team is not a necessity to win and no one has argued against that. I conceeded posts ago that obviously 1) defense has an effect on a team's ability to win 2) defense is more important at c, ss, 2b, and cf than other positions. However, why must you be strong at 4 defensive positions to be a winning team? Why is it more important than good hitting, good pitching, a strong bullpen, etc? Why is it a necessary condition for winning as opposed to a helpful factor?

Jeremy, I don't know what you want. I answered your question with very specific reasons why being strong up the middle is an important part of most great teams. No one ever said it is the only thing that is important, but it certainly is a commonality you will have with most great teams. Being strong up the middle is not defined as having 4 gold glovers in those positions.

Again, I have no idea what you are looking for here. Shall we look at every WS winner in the last 15 years and see how many were strong up the middle?

hillbilly
02-27-2004, 01:58 PM
Originally posted by MarqSox
Because this generation grew up playing baseball video games and fantasy baseball which don't take into account intangibles like that. The average teenage baseball fan today thinks like Angelos of the Orioles who thinks you can just amass a bunch of good hitters and the team will win. It's not that simple.

P.S. I'm not knocking video games or fantasy baseball -- I play both. But it lends a different and sometimes misleading perspective to the game.

You are so true my friend. The same can be said for every sport in the realm of fantasy and video games. Many people dont understand the importance of the middle positions. The most important positions on the field besides having strong pitching. I still think the Sox will be good up the middle dont get me wrong, but any good team other than the yankees who have studs at every position, needs to be strong up the middle.

hillbilly
02-27-2004, 01:59 PM
Originally posted by CubKilla
1. Because the Tribune said it.
2. Because we have three unproven youngsters (Olivo, Rowand, and Olivo) and an error-prone SS.

Being strong up the middle is a given if you're a clear thinking baseball person much more so than being strong on the L or R field side.

error prone maybe, but he has more range than most ss's and a lot of those errors occur on balls nobody else can get to. Im sick of the valentin bashing. Hes a damn good SS. Anyone that thinks otherwise is a retard.

Dadawg_77
02-27-2004, 02:27 PM
Originally posted by Rex Hudler
They also haven't won the WS the past three years.

True but been there 2 out of three isn't bad.

Dadawg_77
02-27-2004, 02:30 PM
Originally posted by PaulDrake
Exactly. Why does every bit of old wisdom have to be questioned?

Why shouldn't it be? Just because someone said something 50 years ago and people believe him doesn't make it so. The only way to improve and increase knowledge is to constantly question. Nothing is scared and every thing must prove its worth or it isn't worth believing in.

Rex Hudler
02-27-2004, 02:42 PM
Originally posted by Dadawg_77
Why shouldn't it be? Just because someone said something 50 years ago and people believe him doesn't make it so. The only way to improve and increase knowledge is to constantly question. Nothing is scared and every thing must prove its worth or it isn't worth believing in.

Bottom line is, question has been asked and answered. Can we not move on?

itchy
02-27-2004, 02:43 PM
Originally posted by Rex Hudler
No one said there can't be exceptions....... but I think you would find that most Championship teams are solid at the minimum up the middle.

I wouldn't dismiss it as an exception. The Yankees have been awful defensively up the middle for quite some time, and they have fielded championship caliber teams for over ten years. In fact, they care so little about defense up the middle, this year they will put their best defensive middle infielder at 3B. They will let Bernie Williams and Kenny Lofton play CF. And how about the world champion Angels? How about the A's for the last several years? How about the Cubs letting Todd Walker butcher 2B in their championsip drive thsi year? Or the Red Sox letting him to do it last year. Seems to me that the baseball decision makers don't follow the cliche, and rightfully so.

Rex Hudler
02-27-2004, 03:59 PM
Originally posted by itchy
I wouldn't dismiss it as an exception. The Yankees have been awful defensively up the middle for quite some time, and they have fielded championship caliber teams for over ten years. In fact, they care so little about defense up the middle, this year they will put their best defensive middle infielder at 3B. They will let Bernie Williams and Kenny Lofton play CF. And how about the world champion Angels? How about the A's for the last several years? How about the Cubs letting Todd Walker butcher 2B in their championsip drive thsi year? Or the Red Sox letting him to do it last year. Seems to me that the baseball decision makers don't follow the cliche, and rightfully so.

Until the last year or two, Bernie Williams was quite solid in CF. Girardi was very good behind the plate and Posada is decent. Jeter, while not great, is at least average and he makes the big plays whether you like him or not. The Yankees also have the ability with their ridiculous payroll to load up in other areas, that other teams do not.

The Angels were very solid up the middle. Molina is excellent defensively, Erstad is very good in CF and Eckstein and Kennedy were solid.

The Marlins with IRod, Pierre, Gonzales and Castillo were very good defensively.

Arizona was solid with Finley, Womack, Counsell and Miller.

The Marlins in 1997 were very good with Devon White, Renteria, Castillo and Charles Johnson.

The Braves in 1995 had Grissom in CF who was very good, Blauser and Lemke who were solid. Lopez was nothing special defensively, however.

The Blue Jays in 1992 and 1993 were very good with Devon White, Roberto Alomar and Pat Borders. Manny Lee and Tony Fernandez more than held their own as SS.

The 1991 Twins were solid up the middle with Gladden, Gagne, Knoblach (before throwing problems) and Brian Harper.

The 1990 Reds had Barry Larkin who was very good, Joe Oliver who was solid, Mariano Duncan and Eric Davis.

The odds are in your favor if you are solid defensively. There is no disputing that. Nowhere did anyone say that is is the only factor in putting together a winning club. You mention the Red Sox, the A's, etc, yet none of them won the WS.

Question conventional wisdom all you want, but the fact remains that teams that are strong up the middle are better more often than not. It is common sense if you simply read my initial answer, but finding out that traditional baseball thinking may actually be right must not suit your agenda.

KingXerxes
02-27-2004, 04:18 PM
Originally posted by Dadawg_77
Why shouldn't it be? Just because someone said something 50 years ago and people believe him doesn't make it so. The only way to improve and increase knowledge is to constantly question. Nothing is scared and every thing must prove its worth or it isn't worth believing in.

Is it not possible that certain institutions/traditions are not capable of "proving their worth" within a given time frame? Are these things to be scrapped in favor of something that has an immediate impact?

Too much MTV?....I don't know, but if you sit around and constantly question everything then the only thing you will have ever accomplished in life is a series of questions. Tradition is the morality of the dead - don't be so quick to discard it.

Palehose13
02-27-2004, 04:53 PM
Originally posted by KingXerxes
Is it not possible that certain institutions/traditions are not capable of "proving their worth" within a given time frame? Are these things to be scrapped in favor of something that has an immediate impact?

Too much MTV?....I don't know, but if you sit around and constantly question everything then the only thing you will have ever accomplished in life is a series of questions. Tradition is the morality of the dead - don't be so quick to discard it.
Asking the question about the validity does not mean one has to discard it. Times change and yes, it does have to be asked if institutions/traditions are still valid in the current era. If the institution/tradition is in fact valid, there should be no fear of questioning because it will stand the test of time. That being said...I am a firm believer in a strong defensive team up the middle. I'll take an excellent fielding, average hitting SS anyday over a excellent hitting, average fielding one. However, his shortcomings at the plate need to be made up by other position players. AND, nothing gives a pitcher more confidence knowing that if he makes a mistake he has a solid defense behind him.

itchy
02-27-2004, 05:26 PM
Originally posted by Rex Hudler
Until the last year or two, Bernie Williams was quite solid in CF. Girardi was very good behind the plate and Posada is decent. Jeter, while not great, is at least average and he makes the big plays whether you like him or not. The Yankees also have the ability with their ridiculous payroll to load up in other areas, that other teams do not.

The Angels were very solid up the middle. Molina is excellent defensively, Erstad is very good in CF and Eckstein and Kennedy were solid.

The Marlins with IRod, Pierre, Gonzales and Castillo were very good defensively.

Arizona was solid with Finley, Womack, Counsell and Miller.

The Marlins in 1997 were very good with Devon White, Renteria, Castillo and Charles Johnson.

The Braves in 1995 had Grissom in CF who was very good, Blauser and Lemke who were solid. Lopez was nothing special defensively, however.

The Blue Jays in 1992 and 1993 were very good with Devon White, Roberto Alomar and Pat Borders. Manny Lee and Tony Fernandez more than held their own as SS.

The 1991 Twins were solid up the middle with Gladden, Gagne, Knoblach (before throwing problems) and Brian Harper.

The 1990 Reds had Barry Larkin who was very good, Joe Oliver who was solid, Mariano Duncan and Eric Davis.

The odds are in your favor if you are solid defensively. There is no disputing that. Nowhere did anyone say that is is the only factor in putting together a winning club. You mention the Red Sox, the A's, etc, yet none of them won the WS.

Question conventional wisdom all you want, but the fact remains that teams that are strong up the middle are better more often than not. It is common sense if you simply read my initial answer, but finding out that traditional baseball thinking may actually be right must not suit your agenda.

Touchy, touchy! My most recent point is merely that today's baseball executives don't seem to make defense up the middle a priority. And remember, the premise of this thread is that the Cubune writer thinks you "need" great players up the middle to win. "Need" means without it, you can't win, which simply isn't true. (And not to be argumentative, but the Tribe didn't win the WS either, whom you were humping earlier in this discussion).

fquaye149
02-27-2004, 06:31 PM
Originally posted by KingXerxes
Is it not possible that certain institutions/traditions are not capable of "proving their worth" within a given time frame? Are these things to be scrapped in favor of something that has an immediate impact?

Too much MTV?....I don't know, but if you sit around and constantly question everything then the only thing you will have ever accomplished in life is a series of questions. Tradition is the morality of the dead - don't be so quick to discard it.


ok, but what if i said to you that the best measure of a hitter is batting average. this was conventional wisdom for quite a while.

now if i say that batting average is the most important offensive statistic (which i actually believe) then you would say i'm being stubborn and old fashioned...that obp or ops are more important...


that's not to say that conventional wisdom shouldn't be respected but it certainly should be questioned if it doesn't gibe with you...

let me ask you a question:

who should be batting third this year: frank, or magglio?

is that the answer conventional wisdom would give you?